Wow, I just discovered that I am an “Eliminative Materialist”. Don’t you love when folks introduce you to new words that actually describe you accurately. The cool part of that is that now I can more clearly discuss my presuppositions and perhaps more clearly see where I am wrong.
Here is Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on EM:
Eliminative materialism (or eliminativism) is the radical claim that our ordinary, common-sense understanding of the mind is deeply wrong and that some or all of the mental states posited by common-sense do not actually exist.
Reading further in the SEP article, you will find that there appears to be more and less ‘radical’ stances within EM itself. And indeed I may be less ‘radical’ (an odd word choice if you ask me). But I am clearly in the EM camp. Heck, I have always felt that if mental experiences are explained clearly, everyone would become an EMer. Please help me wake up! Read the wiki article here.
I ran into the phrase at a Christian friend’s blog where he claims that one key difference between Christianity and Buddhism is that Buddhists are EMers. I agree that a small subset of Buddhists are EMers — the intellectual Buddhists. And I think it is key to many Buddhist teachings. But most Buddhists do not fall in that small subgroup, but instead hold a common-sense understanding of the mind and so can’t be EMers.
Actually most people, as the phrase “common-sense” implies, don’t hold an EM position. I think that even most atheists, just like their Christian colleagues don’t hold an EM position. Thus, when I started this blog I pointed out that though many atheist criticize religion, they have an almost unquestioned religious stance on their view of mind which I feel feeds many of their misunderstandings of themselves and the world.
I wish I actually had a good grasp of philosophy of mind, so that I could understand the controversy. But I don’t and doubt I ever really will. But indeed, much of Triangulations is based on my EM stance, for I feel that the common-sense understanding of mind and self is highly mistaken and leads to many unnecessary surprises and problems.
Questions to Readers:
- What do you feel about EM?
- Do you know of any fantastic refutations of it?
- Are their versions of EM you feel are actually tenable?